Law Firm Bookkeeping and Accounting: A Completed Guide 2022

client trust accounts

Managing all of your business transactions in a separate account makes it easier for you, your bookkeeper, and your CPA to manage your accounting. If everything is jumbled into one account, come tax time, you or your CPA will have to go through your bank records to figure out which expenses are related to your business. Many attorneys prefer to get paid by credit card (online or in-person), which incur their own special fees. Sometimes these fees can become hard to track, causing you to charge the wrong client’s account. To prevent misappropriating funds from other clients, remember to only charge your clients for fees directly relating to their trust account. Manage business revenue in your checking account, and set aside money you’ll need at a later date (for emergencies, to pay taxes, etc.) in a savings account.

  • Both general accounting and trust accounting are necessary for your firm’s success—and integrations seamlessly tie the two areas together.
  • As we have worked with many law firms in the USA, we have gained tremendous experience of working efficiently.
  • Granted, if your bookkeeper and accountant are on board with it, and you take care to flag transactions properly, using your business account for personal transactions isn’t the end of the world.
  • It has a neat Accounting Export feature that lets you export time entries to other accounting software.

Many lawyers go to one or the other extreme—they either claim everything (and possibly more than they’re allowed to), or they’re so afraid to overstep they miss out on tax deductions. When it comes to accounting for law firms, whether you handle it yourself or hire someone, your bookkeeping system must maintain a consistent schedule for carrying out bookkeeping tasks. If you want your firm to stay compliant, be financially successful, and grow, you need to have an accurate and clear bookkeeping system for your law firm to follow.

How to Choose an Accounting Software for Your Firm

Before the IOLTA, lawyers would store this money in a non-interest-bearing checking account, as they are not allowed to benefit financially from storing a client’s money. When a lawyer holds onto a client’s money, they store it in a trust account. As a lawyer, you can appreciate the time and effort that goes into becoming an expert in a complex field. Unfortunately, accounting and tax rules can be every bit as convoluted as any area of study in the legal industry. If you expand your operation and hire employees or structure your business in a way that involves paying yourself a salary, you’ll also have to worry about payroll taxes. These are also due throughout the year, usually bi-weekly or monthly.


The intuitive interface is simple to use and has no confusing financial jargon. It’s easy to add features as you need them, like bank account connections and real-time transaction updates, and you can make changes any time. Wave is cloud-based, and gives you the ability to add mobile apps so you can securely access your accounting software and financial information anywhere, anytime. Whether you’re on a break at the courthouse or traveling to see clients, your financial info is at your fingertips. Managing client funds is obviously more nerve-racking than managing your own, as the money isn’t yours. It’s all the more reason to ensure that you’re keeping accurate financial records.

Consider The Cash Accounting Basis

Our experts are here to help you develop a tax planning strategy designed to minimize your taxes and increase your cash flow. Wave’s optional paid features include online payment processing, payroll software, and access to personalized bookkeeping services and coaching through Wave Advisors. If you’re interested in using payroll software, you can start a free 30-day trial when you sign up for Wave.

Does Clio do accounting?

Clio has made our practice management, file retention, billing, collections and trust accounting so much easier and less time consuming than before.

While you’ve spent years honing your skills to become a great lawyer, you didn’t learn about accounting or bookkeeping for attorneys at law school. Larger law firms that need an all-in-one accounting system with more advanced features should consider tools like PCLaw and LeanLaw. Zola Suite might be the best choice for you if you need a platform that includes CRM capabilities. The software is user-friendly, offers plenty of useful feature modules, and is highly affordable. The free version is free forever and has plenty of invoicing and accounting functions.

Keep thorough records

Efficient and flexible Accounting For Law Firms entry, easy to understand transaction ledgers, comprehensive financial reports and a highly customizable chart of accounts. As a new partner in a law firm, you have more challenges and responsibilities than ever before with what may seem like a lot less time. We can help manage the time-crunch, at least when it comes to your personal tax situation and transition into partnership, so that you can focus on your billable hours. You can quickly set up a free Wave account and get started right away.

  • Law firms can get in trouble when they withdraw unearned funds from CTAs.
  • Finally, one of the best ways to lessen the burden of accounting for your business is to pay someone to help you with it.
  • The money in a CTA isn’t immediately yours — you’re called a fiduciary, requiring you to exercise the highest standard of care with your client’s funds.
  • When you don’t collect funds that you’re owed, you miss out on revenue and are essentially working for free.

Cloud-based accounting software for law firms also automatically gets updated and backed up, offering unparalleled, real-time insights into your firm’s financial data. Financial accounting is the process of documenting, summarizing, and reporting transactions generated by a law firm over time. These transactions are summarized in financial reports, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

– How much profit are you generating as a percentage of your total revenue? The target should be 10-15% with all partners being paid market rate as an expense item. It will be much easier to pick a few numbers and keep those top of mind.

What is the thumb rule of accounting?

The following are the rules of debit and credit which guide the system of accounts, they are known as the Golden Rules of accountancy: First: Debit what comes in, Credit what goes out. Second: Debit all expenses and losses, Credit all incomes and gains. Third: Debit the receiver, Credit the giver.

If you don’t have any accounting tools in place, you’ll need a great, basic software that can do it all. If you only need a few features, such as bookkeeping, a simpler tool or two may suffice. Once you have a strategy and budget in place, the work of day-to-day management sets in. Reviewing your finances is not an annual event completed at tax time!

What Is a Legal Assistant? Explaining Their Role in a Law Firm

These consultants usually have experience dealing with IOLTA, and rules in most states don’t require them to report ethics violations to the bar. If you’re just starting out and think you’ve set up your accounting the wrong way, talk to a professional accountant or bookkeeper with experience dealing with IOLTA. Every law firm has a responsibility to stay compliant with ethics regulations, and your firm is no exception.

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